Stephen Cottrell, in Affirming Catholicism and the Liturgy, speaks of three kisses that take place during the Mass:
- The priest kisses the alter during the first hymn.
- The book of the Gospels is kissed.
- In offering a sign of peace, we may kiss each other.
We come together as the people of God, that we might encounter Jesus. On the altar in the breaking and sharing of bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we meet God.
Having proclaimed the Word of God, a kiss is offered to signify that the Word of God is a moment of encounter with Jesus Christ.
With increasing intimacy, we kiss each other as we greet one another, recognising that each of our neighbours offers us an encounter with Jesus, in whose likeness we are made. We are one family, as Jesus explains in Matthew 25:38-45, when we feed the hungry and welcome the stranger, ‘whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me’.
The kisses echo the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the three times that Peter denied knowing him, and the three times Jesus asked “Do you love me” before replying “Feed my sheep”.
Stephen Cottrell describes these three kisses as “a full-blooded catholic understanding of the Mass”. Jesus too was vulnerable and this is how Jesus comes to us.
“We gather for the Eucharist, tired and frustrated and bored by what our lives have become and all our expectations are all but dried up. And then his word is broken open to us. Words of promise and absolution.”
Let us gather right, with expectant hearts to meet Jesus.
Stephen Cottrell “The Gathering Right” in Living the Eucharist by Stephen Conway (ed.) (2001) Darton, Londman and Todd, London.